Sarah Hines (MS/MBA ’07)
National Science Delivery Specialist, USDA Forest Service Research & Development
What did it mean to you to be named a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow? What were some of the activities and opportunities that held the greatest impact for you?
Being selected as a Doris Duke Fellow was a great honor. I most appreciated being connected to a network of inspiring and capable fellows and alumni, as well as the opportunities for career and professional development afforded by the trip to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center. The Doris Duke Fellowship more fully enabled me to pursue a career based on mission and purpose in the government sector, rather than feeling burdened by student debt—this was a great privilege and has translated into an incredibly meaningful and rewarding career.
Can you tell us about your SEAS experience? How did it help you advance in the conservation field?
My SEAS experience was the beginning of a lifetime of learning with regard to sustainability and conservation. It provided me with a foundational understanding of some of our most pressing social-ecological issues and, perhaps even more importantly, provided me with the “soft” skills I would need to continue to seek knowledge and grow professionally.
What kind of changes have you observed in land conservation in the U.S. over the course of your career?
Depending on where you look, it may seem (and may, indeed, be the case) that there is ever-growing support for land conservation in the U.S. However, what seems to be largely missing is an understanding of the incredible holistic, intimate, and individual role we all must play, beyond pushing for collective action. Land conservation must be integrated everywhere, even in our yards, and our personal actions must reflect today’s current pressing climate, health, and social justice realities. Homogenous suburbs with millions of acres of biodiversity dead zones (lawns) must give way to massive repurposing of yards toward the cultivation of native species that support insects, birds, and other wildlife, and thus support ecosystems and contribute to the strength and resilience of our “conserved” landscapes. We need to move the needle quickly and much more fully toward exclusively plant-based diets as a way of not only dramatically reducing our emissions and improving our health, but also dramatically reducing our land-print. Right now, over 41 percent of the U.S. landbase is used for livestock production. Switching to a plant-based diet means an opportunity to yield the vast majority of this land back to native ecosystems. These uncomfortable truths have been a footnote to the land conservation conversation; they must be brought front and center in the conversation and our own education if we are to make meaningful progress in the coming decades.
Note: Prior to 2017, the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) was known as the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). References to “SNRE” have been updated to “SEAS” to reflect the name change.